CAR racing games always wind me up because they won't let me cheat. I mean if I want to risk disqualification by cutting corners, that is my problem. So what if it is not realistic - it is fun. At least it would be if I was allowed to do it.
African Raiders-01 (do not ask me, presumably there is an 02 planned) puts you in control of a fast four-wheel-drive desert buggy as a competitor in the African stage of the Paris to Dakar rally. You start in Tunis and have five stages to complete.
The first takes you through a rocky vista in Salah, Algeria. As in all the stages, there is a fixed route marked with oil drums. This is the safest route. But it is a long and winding road which avoids all the hazards of the Sahara. Keep to this well beaten track and you are more likely to arrive at your destination in one piece. You will also arrive last. Taking short cuts is more exciting. To this end you are supplied with a map of North West Africa which has all the landmarks fairly accurately plotted. The buggy is fitted with a compass and satellite navigation equipment.
The two most common hazards are quicksand and nomadic settlements. To get rid of that sinking feeling you can switch to four wheel drive but you are slowed from a maximum 240 kph to a piffling 80.
Nomadic settlements are represented by hordes of camels resting behind rocks. The aim is to avoid the same, although smashing into them, or anything else for that matter, on the first stage will not damage your buggy. Which is just as well because the first time you play African Raiders you are going to hit everything. Even if you stick to the track you are inevitably going to bash the odd oil drum. Said oil drum will fly off into the distance in a very satisfactory manner.
From time to time another competitor will appear in front of you, determined to stay there. Somehow you will have to navigate around him without going too far off course.
Stage Two is from Quallene in Algeria to Achegour in Niger. Sand is the prominent feature here. Lots of it, with high sculptured dunes on the horizon. If you hit anything on this and subsequent trips your buggy will sustain damage. First your speedo will break, followed by your navigation equipment and four wheel drive.
Lost in the desert you will almost certainly flounder about until your fuel tank runs dry. Luckily there is a hot key to let you pass to the next stage, although you will suffer severe time penalties for doing so.
The third stage is a race across Niger to Niamey. The scenery changes, the hazards remain the same. But there are more of them. The gameplay is accordingly more difficult.
On to the penultimate stage from Ouagadougou in the starved country of Burkina Faso to the capital of Mali, Bamako. This is the easiest level to navigate because the two towns are at the same latitude.
Set out north for one square and then turn left on to a heading of 270 degrees and you cannot fail to rejoin the track just north of the finishing line. This route also happens to be inundated with hazards. Shucks, foiled again.
The final stage is an inspired dash for Dakar, pushed on by the vision in the distance of a sparkling sea between tree dotted hills.
If you study the map hard enough you will see that each stage has an optimum route. It may look like a long haul, but because you can keep the speed up you will get there quicker. To cross the finishing line you have to rejoin the track at some time, where you will be rewarded by the sight of a helmeted local waving the chequered flag at you.
African Raiders is not a difficult game, but it is best played by two - one to steer, one to navigate and shout instructions. Playing on your own you will have to pause frequently to consult the map. Unless you stick to the track. In which case you will miss seeing the camels and oil rigs and skeletons and wrecked cars. Instead you will have to deal with tight bends and oil drums and wandering nomads who get very annoyed when you run them over. Either way, it is a lot of fun.